Traveling to Santorini Island

I think part of the reason I always wanted to go to Santorini is because it kind of seemed impossible.  It was always my number one dream destination, but there was never really too much disappointment over not going for our honeymoon or in the seven years since our honeymoon, because it felt more like a dream, than something I would ever actually do.  It was fun to fantasize about, but it's too far, too expensive, too...extravagant.  Would I ever really be able to go?


There was some serious sticker shock when we started looking for hotels and I found out it was even more expensive than I thought.  The only place I found that rivaled it in price while we were planning all these trips is Ibiza.  My husband found a place that was I kid you not, $1,000 a night.  He sent an email saying, this is where we're staying, and I wondered if he had hit the lottery and forgotten to tell me.  I didn't want to go to any other Greek island.  I wanted a caldera view.  I wanted my perfect dream Santorini experience, but I didn't want to spend an obscene amount of money.  As badly as I wanted to go I was ready to cancel the whole trip because the thought of paying that much made me sick.  We are not rich celebrities!  We can't pay that much for vacation.  We kept searching, and MJ found Nostos Apartments in Oia on Trip Advisor.  Not really budget friendly, but budget friendly enough by Santorini standards.  It was doable and I would get my dream trip.

MJ booked a one way flight from Athens to Santorini on Travelocity with Bahn Air Systems, separate from our round trip travel from Stuttgart, but finding out our actual airline was like an internet scavenger hunt which he conducted on the way to the airport.  He had to use the limited clues he had from our flight reservation to figure it out.  I'm not sure why they couldn't just tell us. At the Santorini airport you will find one luggage carousel and a bathroom.  That's it.  We arranged transportation there and back through our hotel.  It was about a 40 minute drive down narrow curvy roads.   We were dropped off at the little shuttle bus area nearest to our hotel.  The job of getting our bags down the 86 stairs (we counted) to our actual room was left to the hotel staff.

The first thing you notice is all the stairs.  The second thing you notice is how incredibly bright it is.  You really do need sunglasses or else it's just blindingly bright and white.  We didn't plan much for Santorini, and that's exactly how we wanted it.  We were kind of on a schedule in Paris.  It was great, but we had things to do, and we didn't want that for Santorini.

On our first day we settled in and had dinner at Ambrosia.  You have to make reservations, and then reconfirm those reservations two days in advance.  The outdoor seating area is right over the caldera and it's beautiful.  I wanted to go there for the ambiance, however I feel like it was really expensive for what you got.  The food was good...well maybe I wouldn't really know because I ordered a Greek salad with no tomatoes.  I wasn't that hungry.  MJ ordered, fish which he really enjoyed, but we were both hungry that night.

Breakfast room: out the other window was caldera ocean view
It doesn't take long to settle into your vacation routine.  In the morning we'd get up just in time to not miss breakfast, which was from 8-11.  Breakfast was included in our stay, and served in this lovely room overlooking the water.  Soft music, beautiful view, cool breeze, and a buffet selection of food.  Nothing heavy, as is traditional in Europe, but enough to satisfy your stomach.  It was the perfect way to start every day.  Then we'd do whatever we'd decided to do for the day, and then go in search of dinner.  Most days we ended up with two meals because we'd eat breakfast pretty late and then by the time we finished, it was closer to dinner than lunch.

On our second day in Santorini we went to Fira.  You don't have to rent a car if you don't mind crowded buses.  The buses in Santorini look like charter buses, and they come pretty regularly to take you up and down the island.  Once you get on, someone will squeeze their way down the aisle to sell you a ticket for 1.85.   We got a seat on the way there, but there were people who didn't standing in the aisles.   Fira is beautiful.  There is a main area of shops and restaurants that snakes along the top of the caldera overlooking the ocean.  MJ always wanted to get a fish pedicure so we stopped for that.  I was totally grossed out by the whole thing.  I could  barely watch.  We strolled the area, ate lunch overlooking the water,  and I finished up my ice cream cone right before we got on the bus back to Oia.  It was standing room only for us the whole way. That evening we chilled in our jacuzzi.  It wasn't as warm as we would have liked so we asked the staff to turn it up and it was better the next time we went in.

The only outing we planned in advance was a Sunset Catamaran tour with Spiradakos Sailing, which MJ booked through Viator. We were picked up at our hotel in a shuttle van and taken to the port in Thera.  The boat was super nice and it was a small group so we had plenty of space to enjoy it.  They cooked a great meal for us on board and supplied us with unlimited drinks.  We stopped at three different locations, and the views were stunning.  Stop #1 was White Beach, stop #2 was Red Beach and stop #3 was the Hot Springs. I wasn't sure if I'd jump in the water because fish scare me, and I can't swim that well.  Unlike Hawaii where the water was thick with fish, here I didn't see a single fish.  I was looking hard too.  I decided I could do it, so at stop #1 I got a life jacket and went in.   The water felt so good.  Not as warm as Hawaii but not cold like So Cal.  It was really my first time in open water like that and it was so much fun.  The hot springs water is brown and looks kind of gross.  It was quite a long swim to get to the warmer, browner, water but I made it and it was like warm bathwater.  I wouldn't wear white, as we did have some brown marks from the muddy water on our suits, but they washed out.  We were having so much fun that I totally lost track of time.  Per the website it's a 5 hour excursion but between pick up and drop off it was a whole day affair, and we got back to our hotel pretty late.

We dedicated our fourth day to spending the day at the pool and the night at the jacuzzi.  How's that for an agenda?  I'd say perfect.   There is a grocery store right at the top of the stairs that led down to our apartment so we got snacks the night before.  Around noon it was time to pop the cork on the wine, and that was pretty much our day.  The pool temp was perfect.  We'd take a dip in the pool and then head up to our loungers under the umbrella next to our jacuzzi and relax.  All.  Day.  Long.  It was great.  When we got hungry we showered, went to lunch, or dinner, not really sure what it was, by the time we went, and then back into our swimwear and into the jacuzzi to finish off the bottle of wine and enjoy our last night.

Skaros Rock Imerovigli
Typical Greek meal, so good!!!

It's great not to have to leave right away, but there is always that dead space between hotel check out and flight time that you don't know what to do with.  I kind of wanted to hike Skaros rock, but we didn't make time for it on the other days and we didn't want to have to deal with getting sweaty, and no showers before boarding the plane.  Well.  We got sweaty anyway, because it's hard not to with the humidity and that sun beating down on you.  Also, it was the hottest day of our trip.  We decided to spend our last day in Imerovigli, and found out the hard way that Imerovigli has no shops.  We ran into another couple on an ATV looking for the same thing.  It is a gorgeous town, but mostly made up of hotels, and not even very many restaurants to choose from. At least we saw Skaros rock, and all the people making the trek to the top.  We couldn't even really find a place we wanted to eat there, so we headed back "home" to Oia for some exploring, lunch, and our millionth ice cream cone.  I'm glad we stopped at Neptune Restaurant because the food was excellent, the view was great, and we really enjoyed our last meal.  I eat a lot of chicken at home, so a lot of times I avoid it, but the chicken in Greece is really good, and that last meal for me was the best of the entire trip.  The chicken was so full of flavor, the pita bread was slightly crispy and had just the right amount of garlic flavor, and the rice was so good. So good.  I did not want the meal or the trip to end.

Don't get to the Santorini airport too early, because it's crowded and you might not even have a place to sit, but don't get there too late...because it's crowded.  On the way in, the arrival side of the airport was deserted, but on the way out departures was a madhouse.  We stepped one foot inside and immediately found ourselves at the end of a line for check in.  Then we were herded through security where we were stuck in an area full of people standing shoulder to shoulder with all of their luggage because there just wasn't any place to go.  I anticipated the sweaty situation so I bought wet wipes while we were in Imerovigli.  There I was in a hot cramped airport bathroom stall with a line of women out the door hurriedly wet wiping down my entire body, but I had to do it.  I hate feeling dirty, and I couldn't get on an airplane like that.  We had a change of clothes stashed in our bags so we felt reasonably not disgusting by the time we made it through the crowded airport, and non air conditioned bus ride to our plane. 
That pool and row of loungers way at the bottom left was our hotel
I'm glad we stayed in the main part of Oia.  It's way in the North, so you are farthest away from everything else, but it was a perfect location.  I wasn't really interested in shopping, but I like to look.  There were plenty of restaurants to choose from and so many winding alley ways to explore.  Sometimes the main drag was pretty crowded, but other days it wasn't.  Our hotel was at the very bottom of the cliff.  Down those 86 stairs, it was quiet and isolated.  Most of the time we felt like we had it all to ourselves.

We encountered the most aggressive picture takers I have ever seen.  I get it.  Santorini is gorgeous, and your presence there must be documented, but I'm guessing the obsession probably has a lot to do with this age of social media. It was not uncommon for us to see two people spend 45 minutes taking pictures of each other.  I'm not exaggerating.  Sometimes it would just be one person doing selfies of themselves for that long.  Hey, I like to get my shots for the gram too.  I have to ask my husband to take pictures of me, but for real?  There were some full on photo shoots going on.  I love taking pictures.  Not just for social media because I've always been a picture taker since Polaroid days, but seeing people carry on that way reminded me that I don't ever want to see myself get that obsessive about it.

We had five glorious days there that I wished could go on forever.  Nostos Apartments was perfection.  I loved coming home to that sweet little cave style apartment every day.  It was worth all those steps.  Santorini is pure magic, and pure beauty.  ATV's whizzing by.  Herds of donkeys tromping through the streets. Beautiful scenery everywhere you turn.  Relaxed vibe.  It has everything.  Being there truly was a dream come true for me and I am so glad that we finally got to experience it together.


Laura Darling said...

Sounds like a truly unbelievable experience. Glad your dream came true! That day you spent relaxing at the pool sounds like a total dream!!

Catherine Gacad said...

Looks amazing. I've always wanted to go to Greece, yet never have. One day!!! It's my dream vacation.

Faith said...

I think this is everyone's dream vacation. Glad you were able to experience this!

LOL, to the aggressive picture takers. Luckily, I have Sean who refuses to wait more than a few seconds for me to get my shot! I would be an Instagram star if it were not for Sean ;)

Rachel ¦¦ A Nesting Nomad said...

Ok I am suuuper late to this but I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on the place. I'm so glad you went to Ambrosia and Lolita's, I agree the food at Ambrosia's wasn't necessarily mind blowing but the view totally was! It looks like you found a great location for your accommodation, I have to say that pool looks perfect. I'm really glad you enjoyed your trip and the island in particular, as dream destinations go it ticks a lot of boxes!

We did hike Skaros and it was fun, but honestly I'd have switched it for a day at your pool!

Heartily agree with all your points re the airport (not fun) and the excessive photo takers. Why though. Definitely made me pull up and make sure I never get that self absorbed!